Book of Documents

One of the Five Classics of ancient Chinese literature / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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The Book of Documents (Shūjīng 書經, earlier romanization Shu King) or Classic of History, also known as the Shangshu ( "Venerated Documents"), is one of the Five Classics of ancient Chinese literature. It is a collection of rhetorical prose attributed to figures of ancient China, and served as the foundation of Chinese political philosophy for over 2,000 years.

Quick facts: Author, Original title, Country, Languag...
Book of Documents
A page of an annotated Shujing manuscript from the 7th century, held by the Tokyo National Museum
AuthorVarious; compilation traditionally attributed to Confucius
Original title *s-ta [lower-alpha 1]
CountryZhou China
LanguageOld Chinese
SubjectCompilation of rhetorical prose
Quick facts: Book of Documents, Chinese name, Traditional&...
Book of Documents
"Classic of Documents (Shujing)" in Traditional (top) and Simplified (bottom) Chinese characters
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese書經
Simplified Chinese书经
Literal meaning"Classic of Documents"
Traditional Chinese尚書
Simplified Chinese尚书
Literal meaningVenerated Documents
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Literal meaningDocuments
Vietnamese name
Vietnamese alphabetKinh Thư
Korean name
Japanese name
Lineage of editions of the Shangshu during the Han dynasty

The Book of Documents was the subject of one of China's oldest literary controversies, between proponents of different versions of the text. A version was preserved from Qin Shi Huang's burning of books and burying of scholars by scholar Fu Sheng, in 29 sections (pian 篇). This group of texts were referred to as "Modern Script" jinwen 今文, because they were written with the script in use at the beginning of the Western Han dyansty. According to Western Han dynasty documents, new textual material was discovered in the wall of Confucius' family estate in Qufu by his descendant Kong Anguo in the late 2nd century BC. This new material was referred to as "Old Script" guwen 古文, because they were written in the script that predated the standardization of Chinese script enforced during the Qin dynasty. Compared to the "Modern Script" texts, the "Old Script" material had 16 more texts. However, this seems to have been lost at the end of the Eastern Han dynasty, while the "Modern Script" text enjoyed circulation, in particular in the Ouyang Shangshu (歐陽尚書).[lower-alpha 2] This was the basis of studies by Ma Rong and Zheng Xuan in the Easter Han dynasty.[2][3]

By the end of the second century CE, there was knowledge that the Shangshu at some point included more than the "Modern Script" text.[4] This likely prompted scholars to recreate the "Old Script" texts said to have once belonged to the Shangshu, a process that culminated with the presentation of a 58 section (59 if the preface is included in the count) Shangshu to the Eastern Jin court, in 317 CE, by Mei Ze 梅頤.

This version was accepted, among doubts, and later was canonized as part of Kong Yingda's project. It was only in the 17th century that Qing dynasty scholar Yan Ruoqu demonstrated that the "Old Script" were actually fabrications "reconstructed" in the 3rd or 4th centuries AD.

In the transmitted edition, texts are grouped into four sections representing different eras: the semi-mythical reign of Yu the Great, and the Xia, Shang and Zhou dynasties. The Zhou section accounts for over half the text. Some of its New Text chapters are among the earliest examples of Chinese prose, recording speeches from the early years of the Zhou dynasty in the late 11th century BC. Although the other three sections purport to record earlier material, most scholars believe that even the New Script chapters in these sections were composed later than those in the Zhou section, with chapters relating to the earliest periods being as recent as the 4th or 3rd centuries BC.[citation needed]